How conversational AI is driving the future of work
Workspaces, like classrooms and factory floors, are intellectually dynamic places. Yet, barring a few cosmetic changes, their essential structure has remained similar for a very long time, which is rigid and limiting in its very nature. Despite the talk of ‘increasing digitization and automation’ and ‘Industrial Revolution 4.0’, the ground reality is that enterprises and corporations are not taking steps that transforms the very fabric and work culture of the enterprise; they are simply adopting digital technologies sporadically.
To ensure that we build a digital-first workplace environment, one needs to address the fundamental aspect of employee engagement, especially with the millennial workforce, which puts significant value on this aspect before joining an organization. More importantly, enterprises need to adopt more digitally engaging solutions, as the new-age workforce is digitally native and more adept at interacting with automated interfaces than preceding generations. This is where conversational AI, popularly known as chatbots, can be used as potent tools.
Essentially, conversational AI solutions have helped in three frontiers:
- Optimizing and enhancing interaction amongst employees and enterprise; specifically, HR
- Increasing efficiency in employee training
- Enhancing the everyday work experience.
Let’s take a closer look at how conversational bots are driving the future of work:
Bots for employee engagement and HR operations
We all know the significant role played by HR personnel in driving the employee engagement quotient of an enterprise. It is a role that involves utilizing sufficient parts of empathy, people management, motivation, and psychology; all inherently human virtues, to keep people happy and inspired. However, chatbots and intelligent conversational interfaces have also started playing this essentially humane role for enterprises, and are also achieving success.
Enterprises all over the world are employing chatbots to understand employee motivation and determine employee happiness quotient across departments to identify issues bothering their workforce. These interfaces not only engage with professionals but also generate a reliable source of data for higher levels of management to determine the impact of decisions on particular teams, things they would like to improve, and strategies required in the future.
Additionally, chatbots can easily automate day-to-day HR queries and processes, which can reduce the workload of HR professionals. Bots can answer frequently-asked HR queries around company policy, compensation details, leave status, expense filing process, etc. thus enabling HR professionals to focus on high-impact issues and initiatives. By taking care of the mundane stuff, conversational AI allows employees to focus on tasks that enrich their workplace experience.
Bots for employee upskilling
It is a widespread belief that those impacted most by AI will be manual workers or professionals with a narrower skill set, i.e., those disenfranchised from the technology. On the other hand, a study showed that AI could predict the outcomes of human rights trials with 79 percent accuracy. So a case can be made for highly-qualified workers, such as lawyers, being equally likely to be impacted by AI in the future. In reality, neither of the cases is true. It is only those who do not possess the desire to remain skill-relevant and evolve their capabilities that are at a risk of being overshadowed.
A fundamentally incorrect attitude that most professionals possess today is that learning is a one-off activity that is needed only before they enter the workforce. Nothing short of a cultural revolution in the workspace is essential to promote life-long learning, and AI-based training tools have the power to do just that.
Conversational AI-based upskilling platforms have helped countless professionals all over the world to stay skill-relevant in an ecosystem that is becoming increasingly time-poor. Companies can deploy personalized conversational AI solutions that make the entire L&D process a two-way experience; as opposed to the prevalent one-way delivery mechanism of most training programs today. Chatbots can adapt to an employee’s pace, skills, and expertise and recommend the right modules to help the employee upskill and learn faster. Users can ask the bots any number of questions, seek suggestions, and also practice soft skills (like negotiation, taking interviews, expectation setting, etc.) to hone their interpersonal skills. Chatbots can also help in understanding an employee’s performance according to various metrics, and assist in conducting training to improve upon areas that need attention.
Bots to enhance the day-to-day experience at work
Most employees have to deal with mundane and repeated activities outside the core job they are hired for. Countless hours are spent in filing expenses, block meeting rooms, setting up reminders for ourselves, submitting leave applications, and even updating performance management tools. Chatbots can double up as a personal assistant for employees and automate these tasks; employee can manage all these tasks by sending a simple message to the bot. Each organization has particular processes and systems that employees need to follow, and a bot can be trained to handle these processes end-to-end by integrating them with the organizations’ backend system.
A well-integrated bot can also serve as a single interface for employees executing these tasks rather than having to toggle across multiple tools or platforms to get things done. The technology has evolved to stage where it can work flawlessly on limited scope that the bot is trained for. With the increase in adoption of conversational AI solutions by end-users, the idea of having a digital personal secretary for all employees is a real possibility.
While the contribution of AI-based technologies in enhancing a brand’s outward presence is evident, such technologies also have the power to transform an enterprise from within; this is a realization the industry is gradually waking up to. Thus, the age-old statement of ‘AI is usurping jobs’ in actuality is being proven false every day. Rather than taking jobs, technology is enhancing our workplaces in more ways than one.